A Critique of B Positive Episode 3 “Foreign Bodies”
Advanced medical training has made me a little bit of an asshole, I think, when it comes to medical-themed television shows and movies. I wasn’t always so disgusted by them. In fact, I remember laughing hysterically at a scene in Scrubs, because it had managed to put a funny spin on a very real situation. I was a resident, probably in my third year of on-the-job training after medical school.
A Code Blue is called over the intercom. Intern JD, the main character, is running down the hall, his voiceover explaining that “A Code Blue is when a person is dying and the first one to arrive on the scene is put in charge of saving that person’s life.” Then he questions why he, someone fresh out of medical school, is running so fast toward a Code Blue. He takes an abrupt right turn to hide in a closet, only to find Turk, his best friend and co-intern, already cowering there!
I never actually hid in a closet, but I could certainly understand the impulse to do so. I definitely slowed my pace a time or two and once when I did arrive first, I didn’t speak up when the ER attending who arrived moments later asking who was in charge of the code. I just stood there, panicked, trying to remember how much epinephrine to draw up in a syringe. I’ll never forget the judgmental, disappointed look on my intern’s face. But f*ck him because a) he could have spoken up too, as he was right on my heels as second to arrive; and b) not everybody is built to respond well to a true emergency. Hence, the primary care residency program. It’s good to know these things about yourself.
Yet here I am, after becoming a highfalutin kidney specialist, proclaiming myself as the most bestest exceptionalliest qualified person to give the episode by episode critique of B Positive nobody asked for. And as painful as it has been for me between Scrubs and now to endure medical scenes in television and movies, I have to admit that pointing out the absurdities this sitcom bringing me a surprising amount of joy. Not only is it giving me a sense that I am dispelling somebodies’ misperceptions about health care, but also providing a really positive outlet for releasing the sheer disgust I feel watching Hollywood spew bad medical information unchallenged.
So, without further ado, here are the top inaccuracies/absurdities in order of appearance explained and rated on level of my subsequent eye rolling induced by Episode 3 “Foreign Bodies”:
1. Drew explains to Julia, his ex-wife with whom he gets along well, that he has kidney failure and that Gina has offered to be his donor. She asks, “how did this happen?” and Drew talks about how Gina came to be his donor. What’s wrong with this?: Nothing really. I just find irritating that he talked about Gina rather than why his kidneys failed. Reminds me of how non-medical people talk about how somebody has cancer, but rarely know where the cancer started. Just as the prognosis of pancreatic cancer is much, much worse than that of testicular cancer, even if the kidneys have completely failed, the cause still matters in terms of how likely it will come back and affect a new kidney. Rating: 🙄 (because maybe this is just on my personal pet peeve list)
2. Later, Drew explains his situation to Maddie, his 12-year-old daughter. In his effort to reassure her, he says he has the best doctor — because he was in a magazine! What’s wrong with this?: These “Best Doctor” lists are about as objective and unbiased as being chosen for Alpha Omega Alpha, the honor medical society, or say, Prom Queen. Rating: 🙄 (because maybe this was just intended to be funny. But still.)
3. Drew goes on to say he’ll be out of the hospital after transplant surgery in 2–3 days. What’s wrong with this?: The donor is usually out in 1–3 days, but the recipient usually needs 4–5 days to be well enough to leave the hospital. Rating: 🙄 🙄 (for being overly optimistic, because when it doesn’t happen like that it scares people)
4. Gina says and I could die. What’s wrong with this?: It is true; she could die. But it’s extremely rare. Like for every 100,000 people donating a kidney, 7 die rare, largely because donors are really healthy people. Rating: 🙄 🙄 (for scaring folks unnecessarily)
Now for what they got right:
1. Drew tells Maddie he’ll have energy and won’t be so pale after getting a transplant. What’s right about this?: Kidney failure usually happens very slowly over years. So slowly that people tend not to appreciate the full magnitude of their symptoms — until they get a new kidney. My hubby would attest to that after receiving one of mine. From my book, describing how he felt in the post-operation recovery room:
“I feel like the fatigue has just lifted off me,” Robert said, amazed. He didn’t realize how tired he had been. He thought it would be several days before he’d notice a difference.”
And I was amazed at how quickly his color had gone from ashen to rosy. Rating: 😊😁 (for bringing a beautiful memory to mind)
Critique on episode 4 soon. Screenwriters and producers: please get a medical consult from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Hint: It me.